Tag: service

Good Deeds for Show?

ice bucket

Recently the internet was all abuzz with the ALS ice bucket challenge.  Fortunately people took pity on me with my injury and did not challenge me but I fully support the cause and making a donation to ALS for their non-embryonic stem cell research to try and thwart the horrible illness that is ALS.

Of course with any big movement you have the companion backlash, which to be honest kind of bums me out.  The internet is used for bad things so often that why pick apart people who are part of a movement that has done good things and at worst are having fun with water?

But one part of the criticism has kept me wondering for a few weeks.  Some have said people are only doing something good so they can look like a good person.  While I think that is a pretty cynical attitude to be taking (everyone I know who did it genuinely wanted to have fun and spread awareness, be part of something bigger than yourself) I’m sure it applies to some who just want attention.

But is attention for doing something good, or being a good person, a bad thing? If we look at scriptures it is a little confusing.  Jesus did many of his acts of service in large crowds with onlookers and observers noticing his goodness and even becoming converted as a result.  As a missionary I wore my calling on my tag and went out proclaiming the gospel.  There was no attempt to hide the good message I believed in.

Jesus often had large crowds to teach too
Jesus often had large crowds to teach too

But the scriptures also teach us to not moan over our fastings and sacraments to ‘be seen of men’.  Those ‘have their reward’.  So we are to proclaim goodness and serve but not be doing it for that reward.  Such problem motives are easy to see in ourselves but I would be extremely hesitant to judge anyone else in that regard.

And what about movements? Does that lessen the impact whether public or not if lots of people are doing it?   Is the first person who did the ice bucket challenge a better person than the one millionth?   Does something’s goodness get lessened because ‘so and so challenged me, and I’m challenging her’? Is that the equivalent of a french pastry that starts out beautiful but the more hands it touches the more distasteful it becomes?

While the message certainly gets diluted, I don’t think it is so much so that it turns from a good thing to a bad thing.  It’s just a good thing that took a little bit longer to get to some than others.

christian_community_your_spiritual_service

I had an interesting experience in college.  For years from high school until my mission I seemed to always be in put in charge of running sub-4-santa programs whether it was for church, choir or school organizations.

One year we were assigned a latino family that lived in a small basement apartment.  We sacrificed and gave them the best Christmas we could and gathered to give the presents and set up their tree. When we arrived at the small apartment the mother had made tamales (which are like my favorite thing!) and we had such a wonderful time.  She had given of herself and so had we.  It was a perfect Christmas moment.

That is why the next year I was so surprised when I shared the story with my co-chair and he looked very skeptically at me and said he would rather drop the items off anonymously.  He felt there was less value in the giving when a ‘big to do’ was made of it.  I remember it stinging a little bit because I felt he was calling into question the wonderful experience we had all had (much like the ALS critics).  So, we did it anonymously that year and you know what it was a forgettable experience.

Maybe it is more noble to serve anonymously without any public acknowledgment but if it is forgettable and doesn’t bond you with other humans I’m not sure?  Plus nobody is encouraged to pass the service on when it is boring. At least most of us need a little enthusiasm and sentimentality to get motivated to serve.

The-best-way-to-find-yourself-is-to-lose-yourself-in-the-service-of-others.-Gandhi-quote

The other aspect to the ice bucket challenge is to remember that the internet at it’s best is a massive community.  And really communities have been part of collectively doing good things together since the idea of community.

ECCFPD-Pancake-Breakfast

Think of your typical pancake breakfast to help a church or a firehouse.  You are going to tell me that everyone there is attending for noble purposes? No just like with the ice bucket challenge some are attending to look good to others, some to socialize, some to eat, laugh, and some to encourage others to support the firehouse.  All those reasons besides the eating can be seen in why people poured ice over their head online.

You could make the argument that nobody makes money off of going to a pancake breakfast; however, the number of people who make serious money on youtube are very small. So the idea that even celebrities are posting ice bucket videos to draw attention and make money for themselves and not the cause is pretty far fetched.

What about 5k runs that people participate in for a variety of reasons not just the cause?  That’s still a good thing they are doing even if it isn’t a primary motivator.  Would I be better off running by myself and donating in private?  I don’t think so.

Turkey Trot for food bank
Turkey Trot for food bank

Some say they just want to show off how good of a person they are.  Well, again given all of the ways people show off how bad a person they are is that such a bad thing?  How pleasant was it for about a week to have TMZ and E! gawkers talking about something good and not rehabs, overdoses and fashion disasters.

I think it is also easy to call into question the motives of people we don’t know, especially if they are famous, while defending those we do.  It’s the same reason why most people like and trust their local congressman or woman and yet are very cynical and critical of Congress as a whole.  It’d be nice if we could give everyone the benefit of the doubt especially when what they are doing doesn’t hurt anyone or cost anyone anything.

To me it was very discouraging to look at videos and see tons of scathing comments full of criticisms of motives, wasting water and a million other flaws.  Criticizing the movement as a whole is one thing but individuals who are trying in their mind to do something good it bums me out.

Charlie Sheen did a video where he dumped $10,000 over his head to show he was giving money vs just water.  I am not a fan of Sheen but I thought it was cool but of course a million commenters (why I don’t normally read comments) said it wasn’t enough money or that he was a hypocrite, jerk, moron etc.  Sigh…

So what does all this rambling mean?  I don’t know.  I’ve been thinking about this topic in my scripture study for weeks and have found evidence on both sides.  Some scriptures seem to say to avoid large proclamations and others condemn those who hide their talents (or testimonies) under a bushel.

I certainly don’t think something is inherently less valuable because it is part of a movement or publicized.  If that was the case no major religion would have value because they have always been part of large movements and publicized.

I guess in the end I prefer to be positive and assume the best of intentions.  I choose to see the videos and smile and I would challenge you to as well.  So what if a tiny minority is doing it solely for appearances.  You can’t control others motivations. Look for the best in people and move on and even if it is for show it is something for show that did something good; whereas, a million other movements like gangnam style dance videos, were merely for fun (which has value).

And finally if you don’t like a movement nobody is forcing you to watch videos.  Just make your donation in private and move on.

So that is my ramblings.  What do you think?  Is doing good publicly better or do you agree with my old college co-chair it is better to be private, anonymous and humbly serve?

And if you don’t think it did any actual good take a look at this

als

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A Gift of Service

Most of us that are active in social media have a few friends that aren’t really friends.  They are people we have met on forums or fan pages and we chat about our mutual interests, enjoy each other’s company and think nothing more of it.  I have these from several angles and I love them.

Well, today I had a very touching experience.  I am writing this from my bed at my home.  To get here I had quite the day.

First of all I had a busy morning and I said goodbye to my family, some of which I won’t see for a long time as they are moving across the country and to Japan. 😦

Then I hobbled to the airport and got a wheelchair from Delta who were amazing through all this.  They coordinated the wheelchair, cancelled my ticket at no fee and I got first class for only $59.

Btw, I really liked first class.  If it is $59 again I am totally doing it.  It was a rough flight too.  I came so close to losing my first class snacks when we hit a long stretch of turbulence.  Then we got my bags and I was picked up by my new friend Amber.

She is one of those people that was a facebook friend but I hadn’t met.  I had posted I needed a ride to the airport a few weeks ago and she responded.  I said ‘are you sure?’.  I couldn’t believe that someone was willing to take a complete stranger to the airport.  It was so nice.

I told her I have never met anyone via airport pick up but it went great and she agreed to get me on the way home as well.  Then when I hurt my knee and had to change flights around she was more than amenable.

I called her to talk about the injury and she suggested getting a cane from walmart so that it was ready for my arrival and I would pay her back.  It was brilliant and she took the time to purchase it.

She even got me one with some pizazz.  It was perfect.

cane

Then she drove me home and helped me in with my bag and all the mail I had.

Next was tackling the scary stairs and she helped encourage me as I took it one step at a time.  It was hard but I made it through.

stairs

Once I was settled she took a grocery list and helped me stock the mini-fridge and microwave with food and drinks so that I wouldn’t have to go downstairs for a few days.

collage_128

It was beyond nice.

I’m really quite touched by it. I mean how many times have you devoted days to someone that is basically a stranger? Most of us, including myself, have never done that outside of charity projects or writing this blog.

It would have been so easy to let someone else take care of it but she didnt and I find that remarkable.

Now to some rest and quick recovery.
Thanks again. I’m usually the one giving service and making things work so it humbling to be on the other side for a bit.

🙂

 

Falling Trees and Christmas Cards

I’ve had quite the crazy last few days! As I mentioned in my last post I had put up my tree after a long battle to get it delivered by Five Star Christmas Trees.  The installer did a terrible job and it felt wobbly but I was feeling optimistic so I went ahead and decorated (stupidly!).

This was Saturday but it kept getting worse and worse until finally I felt under the tree and it was floating in the stand.  There are 3 screws on the bottom of the stand which the tree should be hammered into so it is secure and then 3 flat surfaces to keep it straight.  All that was holding it up was the three flat bolts and yesterday it came crashing down.

To make it worse the tree was cut at such a slant that it had no chance of being on a solid footing.  Look at the stem.

stub

The whole reason I had decided to get a natural tree was because of the install and delivery option.  A tree is too heavy and too much for one person to deal with, which I found out when I was pinned down by the tree after it fell a second time.

tree down

Thankfully none of my ornaments got broken.  As I’ve mentioned before I have collected them over years, some of them being irreplaceable.  But after the second fall I was feeling pretty discouraged and covered with tree sap and needles everywhere.  The tree was too heavy for me to lift on my own and I didn’t have a saw to fix the stem.  I called a bunch of people but naturally everyone was out on a Sunday  night in December.  It was proof positive that I can’t do everything on my own! 🙂

So I tried my bishop more of out desperation than anything else because I know how busy he is and I don’t want to be another burden.  I must admit that I cried when I talked to his wife and asked if they could do me a favor and help me out.  They came over and we sawed the tree and got it back up as securely as it could be.  Hurray!

back up

I’m grateful that I found people that were willing to serve me during this Christmas season.  It really meant a lot to me.  It’s nice to know you can lean on your safety net every now and then.  Thanks!

So remember that serving others at Christmas can be as simple as answering a phone and helping a neighbor with their tree.  It doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming.  Just be available and willing when the opportunity presents itself and if you are praying for it will be presented!

Merry Christmas and I wanted to share with all of you my Christmas card for 2013.  I have done custom valentines and Christmas cards with my friend Joan for 3 years now and this one doesn’t have a photo.  I developed the concept from a Christmas card I had seen of Santa Claus lighting lanterns.  I thought it would be fun to showcase the year I’ve had with balloons as an homage to my Up birthday/open house from earlier this year. Rachel2013and here are my 2012 and 2011 cards

Rachel2012

 

rachel2

What do you guys thinks?  Pretty fun right! I love designing something unique and fun each year.  I have also done valentines.  See them at https://smilingldsgirl.com/2013/02/14/happy-valentines-2013/

To design your own go to http://www.bitsycreations.com/

There is still time to order your Christmas cards!

Merry Christmas and thank you all for reading!

Birthday Bags for Homeless

We had a great activity today for my ward.   It was a valentines date night which would normally make me sick inside but it was combined with an awesome service project so that made it more palatable to a single person like me.  We collected donations for little presents or bags that the local homeless shelters could give to residents on their birthday.  These included bags for men, women, teens and children.

bags

I was a little nervous that we wouldn’t get much stuff or that we’d get lots of the same kind of stuff.  I could just see 20 people bringing toothbrushes or only having enough for 2 bags.  Fortunately none of that happened in fact we filled up at least 50 bags for all sexes and ages and then had enough to fill up at least double that number.  It was so cool!

women getting bags ready bags2

The nice thing is I actually felt like we were helping people, not just going through the motions.  It seemed like everyone was pushing themselves and giving as much as they could.  I remember a few years ago at a ward sub-4-santa I left feeling depressed.  It seemed to me we were giving the family a bunch of junk and I felt a nagging sense of regret at an opportunity lost when more could have been done.  Not so this time.  I was blown away at everybody’s generosity and creativity.

Even the idea for the bags was creative.  It was the idea of a woman in the ward who was speaking with her neighbor Tammi  who is completely awesome leader in our community.  A few years ago she moved to Draper and decided she wanted to contribute.  She didn’t have much money but figured she could make peanut butter sandwiches, which she did. After bagging them up she took them to give out to the homeless.  Since then she’s become more involved with area needy.  Isn’t that cool!

Well, they were talking and the idea for a birthday bag was developed.  Nobody had done it at these shelters before so it was uncharted ground and we really had no idea how it would all turn out.  However, it certainly exceeded my expectations.  What a neat opportunity to serve.

I’m so worn out and tired from this week but I can’t sleep.  Sigh…I need a break!

Oh well, at least I had an opportunity to serve.  I’m glad of that.

The Big Fall

As most of you know by now I had an accident yesterday.  I was carrying my Christmas ornaments down the stairs at the Sammy house when I went too fast and fell head-first down the stairs.  What made the accident especially bad was I couldn’t catch myself because I was carrying the ornaments.  This caused me to fly and ram my head into the wall with a lot of force. It was a sad site- me at the bottom of the stairs laying like a lump in terrible pain.  Being all alone at the house I called everyone with no luck at first.  Fortunately an interested tenant was coming to look at the house a few minutes after the fall.  I texted him to come inside and explained my situation.  The man’s name was Mark, and he was very kind to me. (I joked that this was not my usual sales pitch!)  He got me ice and made sure an ambulance wasn’t necessary.

Eventually I reached my aunt Carol, and my uncle Jon came to my rescue.  My Dad was also a consoling voice over the phone and Bruce Grist came over to make sure I was ok.  Jon took me to the doctor’s and they did some x-rays (oh that was painful!). To my surprise and relief there were no broken or fractured bones- just muscle spasms, tares and bruises.  Before I left the doctors they gave me a shot for the pain and some meds to help later on.  It was a great experience at the doctors.  I went to an urgent care in American Fork, and they were very thorough and thoughtful.  The doctor even called me at night to make sure I was ok.  Isn’t that great service?

The doctors didn’t want me to be alone so my friend Emilee came over and kept me company.  I also got a ton of calls, texts and facebook posts from friends all over the country promising to pray for me and expressing concern.  I suppose the one benefit to these types of crisis is you realize all the people who care for you.  It warmed my heart.

I was warned by the doctor that today would be more painful, and I don’t know about more, but it hasn’t reduced.  I had a rough night even with the drugs (they helped but didn’t negate the pain).  Its in kind of a weird spot on my back that makes it hard to get comfortable. I was especially annoyed when I got a call for the houses at 6:25 am!  Are you kidding me? Think about the clock people! I didn’t answer it of course but it still woke me up.  I told my Dad I just couldn’t deal with work today. Thankfully he was understanding.

I’d like to thank everyone who helped- particularly my Uncle Jon for taking me to the doctors,  Bruce and Tracy Grist for bringing my car down and moving the rest of my Christmas stuff (I told them I wouldn’t be in the mood to do that for some time), Dr. Newman at the Insta-care, Bishop Hyland for arranging a blessing and getting my prescriptions, my Dad for his ability to calm me down when I was in shock, Emilee Russell for coming to sit with me yesterday and Mark Ursick for his kind initial response.  Thanks also for all the love showered upon me.  With no broken bones I am hoping to heal quickly and am following all the doctors orders so I can be back on my feet soon. I am not going to let this put a damper on my fitness quest.  It is simply a bump (or fall!) along the way.  Thanks also for your prayers on my behalf.  Keep them coming!

this whole drawing should be red with pain!

Giving Blood

So, today I gave blood on behalf of Edward Cullen! Let me explain…

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago I have set a goal to perform one day of community service a month.  Luckily I found out that my apartment complex has a day of service a month as well.  This month they decided to do a blood drive.  As part of the promotion every donor had to pick a Twilight hero to donate their blood in behalf of.  As creepy as donating blood to a vampire might be it was actually kind of funny.  They even had the movie playing in the donation center.  Everyone knows I am not the most die-hard Twilight fan but I liked the first and second books and it was a creative idea for a blood drive.  I also thought the movie was campy and fun.

The actual giving blood part was a different story.  My veins are always tough to find. When I was 17 I had my appendix taken out and at the hospital the nurses tried and tried to insert my IV.  Eventually once the expert phlebotomist failed they had to insert the IV through my finger!  It is always tough and to be honest that is why I don’t give blood much.  In fact, I haven’t done it for years.  So today I walked over to the clubhouse and gave blood.  It was painful and it took both arms and 3 attempts to get things going but I did it.  It hurt and I am battered and bruised as a result.  I look like a drug user with pricks all over my arm!

Like I said, it hurt and was a sacrifice, but I feel it was worth it.  Hopefully my hard earned blood will go to help someone who really needs it. I challenge all of you that are able, to go out and do it!

Here is a website about the Twilight promotion. http://www.freewebs.com/twilights-bite/

Here are some interesting statistics about donating blood in the United States (some of them are a little obvious like there is no substitute for human blood- really!). I found them from the New Jersey/New York Red Cross website:

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———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

BLOOD STATISTICS

Usage:

–4.5 million Americans benefit from life-saving blood transfusions each year.

–40,000 pints are transfused each day in the United States.

–New York Blood Center alone requires over 2,000 volunteer blood donations each day to meet the transfusion needs of patients in close to 200 New York and New Jersey hospitals.

–1 out of every 3 people will require a life-saving transfusion sometime during their lifetime.

–Someone in this country needs a life-saving transfusion every 3 seconds.

–Transfusion recipients include cancer patients, accident, burn and trauma victims, newborn babies, transplant patients, mothers delivering babies, surgery patients, chronically transfused patients suffering from sickle cell disease or thalassemia, etc.

–Each donation of blood can help save 3 lives following component (red cell, platelet, plasma) separation.

–Much of today’s sophisticated medical care ( transplants, heart surgeries, etc.) rely on blood transfusions.

–Car accident and trauma victims may need as many as 50 or more red cell transfusions.

–Severe burn victims may need as many as 20 platelet transfusions.

–Bone marrow transplants may require platelets from over 100 donors and red cells from over 20 people.

–Blood products are perishable.
* Donated red cells last only 42 days.
* Donated platelets last only 5 days.
* Plasma can be frozen for a year.

–The need for blood never takes a holiday.

Eligibility:

–Nearly everyone between the ages of 17 and 75, weighing a minimum of 110 pounds and in good health can donate blood. Donors over age 75 who are healthy and meet all other donor requirements simply require a doctor’s written permission note to donate.

–60% of Americans are eligible to donate blood; yet on average only 5% of Americans donate blood.

–In the New York/New Jersey community, less than 2% of eligible people donate blood.

–People can safely donate blood every 8 weeks.

–People can safely donate platelets every 3 days or up to 24 times a year.

–Of New York Blood Center’s approximate 450,000 donors, 8% self identify themselves as African-American, 11% self-identify themselves as Hispanic and 5% self identify themselves as Asian. But more donations from people of color are needed so New York Blood Center can better match its community’s richly diverse population and the need for “precise match” transfusions.

How Blood Works:

–Red cells carry oxygen to the body’s organs and tissues.

–Platelets act like band-aids to form clots and stop bleeding.

–Plasma is the liquid through which blood cells, proteins, enzymes, nutrients and hormones “swim”.

–White cells, also called “leukocytes”, are the body’s primary defense against infection.

–The average person has between 8 to 10 pints of blood in their body and can easily spare one for donation.

–After donating, blood volume is replaced, or regenerated, within 24 hours. Red cells need 4 to 8 weeks for complete replacement.

–There is no substitute for human blood.

Affluenza

logobig

So, I heard a term today that just made me laugh out loud.  It is called affluenza.  This is not a joke.  It is an actual psychological diagnosable condition and to me it says a lot about how out of wack our society has gotten.  How can something so obvious be a cause for debate and study? It’s another one of those scientific endeavors that can be summed up in old colloquial sayings such as “Money doesn’t buy happiness”.  Listen to the wikipedia definition of affluenza and tell me if you don’t think it is crazy:

affluenza, n. a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more. (de Graaf [1])
affluenza, n. 1. The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses. 2. An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by the pursuit of the American Dream. 3. An unsustainable addiction to economic growth. (PBS [1])

This isn’t just overspending.  No it is a contagious socially transmitted condition of overload and debt! So now if we are in debt it isn’t our fault, merely the cause of a contagious condition we inherited- like strepp or AIDS. Watch out my friends!  Watch out for your children!  Affluenza may spread!

I certainly hope that Congress doesn’t hear about this condition or they might start claiming bouts of affluenza caused them to vote for the spending bill!

I hate to sound preachy on this blog but to me it is things like this that show how far off track our country has gotten from the religious foundations it was started with.  Affluenza wouldn’t happen if you had a society based on brotherhood (and sisterhood), charity, freedom, independence and faith.  It’s no accident that Jesus said ” It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24).

Now, I came from a family with a middle to high class lifestyle.  I certainly got everything I needed and most of the things I wanted. However, we never suffered from affluenza because my parents had us grounded in Christian values- focusing on service to others, the importance of family and the value of hard work. I could list lots of examples of how my parents demonstrated to me that money was not the purpose of life.  One example is how my father has always been an avid home teacher.  Home teaching is a program in our church of visiting fellow members and helping them in anyway possible.  Many good home teachers still do it out of obligations or duty- not my dad.  He loves it!  He loves getting to know and serving people and most of them become his life-long friends.  He’s even spoken at some of their funerals. For the record, my mother is also a diligent visiting teacher.

Another example is how both of my parents were always opening their home to friends.  For instance, we had a number of foreign exchange students and visitors while I grew up.  This enriched all of our lives and created great relationships all over the globe.  Another memory I have is of our friends always being welcome to eat with our family.  We had family meal every night.  Even when I was in high school and my parents had two little ones and I was busy with activities, I still remember eating together most nights.  Often one of my friends, or my brother’s friends would join us for dinner.  They were always welcomed as one of our family.  My parents weren’t perfect but in simple ways they taught me how to serve others and keep a heart free from greed.

As my sister and brother have gotten married they have also been good examples of reaching out to others and cultivating a non-materialistic home.  My brother is passionate about many causes and has allowed friends to stay at their home, sharing meals together.  My sister is great about giving of her time to other young mothers around her.  She was just telling me yesterday about a small act of service she had planned for two of her acquaintances.  She found out they were traveling with kids and decided to make them little kits to help the kids with the journey.  It is such little acts of service that keep each of us grounded in what matters.  Our country needs the same grounding.  We certainly don’t need an excuse for our excesses like an affluenza epidemic.

I served my mission in Indiana and while there I met one of the richest ladies I have ever known.  Her name is Sister Mary Turner.  She lived in a tough part of Indianapolis and had very little material possessions.  She actually lived off of social security and some welfare assistance from the church.  Because she loved the missionaries she had a strong desire to feed all of us every week (4 elders, 2 sisters) but she refused to use any assistance or welfare money to do this.  So to make a few extra dollars she started gathering soda pop cans and then turning them for cash. Eventually her neighborhood and our ward (congregation) joined in and everyone had a stash of cans to help Mary Turner feed the missionaries.  With the few dollars she got every week she would then go to Aldee’s (a discount store in the midwest) and buy whatever was on sale.  This usually led to some odd meal combinations including spaghetti and mashed potatoes or french fries and egg rolls.  After the meal she would usually have some type of food gift for us such as a gallon of milk or a half gallon of ice cream.

I will never forget this sacrifice made in my behalf.  She did not have to feed us.  There were others who would have gladly done so, but she wanted to give to a cause she loved.  The entire cycle of her money from creation, to spending, to giving was based on Christian values. It is a great example of charity and a wonderful way to live our lives- full of worry about how you can afford to help people, not how you can compete with the neighbors.  Mary Turner suffered from the opposite of affluenza- giveluenza! Something our country could use a lot more of and that our leaders could work to develop.

In my life I try to do at least one day of community service a month.  This has just started but already I have had some neat experiences including delivering cookies to the lonely and working at Festival of Trees for Primary Children Medical Center. Such endeavors have not only brought me happiness but hopefully helped others in my small way.  They also keep me grounded in what matters and in the community I love. I think we need to write a similar prescription for anyone suffering from affluenza- find someone to serve, look at a neigbor as a friend not an enemy, and help someone accomplish their dreams.   This is what makes life great not money!

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